How Leaders Develop Leaders

This title of a 1997 article by Eli Cohen, Research Director at the University of Michigan Business School and Noel Tichy, who is also at the School and teaches Organizational Behavior and Human Resources Management is striking in its elegance and power.

The job of the leader is to develop their successors, and the job of the successor is to learn to be the leader of tomorrow. Somehow we have gotten caught up in believing that we send our people off to be developed into leaders. But these folks spend all their waking hours inside our organizations! So isn’t that where leadership learning should occur? Ask Cohen and Tichy, “The best way to get more leaders is to have leaders develop leaders,” they posit.

Then they go on to share some requirements of leaders and learners in the organization:

Leaders have a ‘teachable’ point of view. Meaning simply, they have the self awareness to understand what it takes to successfully lead others in the field. Then they turn ‘every interaction with their people’ into a learning and teaching event.

Leaders tell powerful stories about the future, and link successful leadership behaviors to those compelling stories about what’s possible.

Leaders develop leaders at all levels. With command and control proving ever less valuable, and with quick thinking and agility demanded of everyone, things no longer go ‘up the ladder’ for approval, and ‘down the ladder’ for implementation. Collaborative decision making and co-leadership are essential.

So, before sending your folks off to learn the newest leadership tricks, just ask some questions of yourself.

  • What might I do today that would model the way for my successors?
  • What question might I ask that would challenge the best thinking of my best people?
  • How could I bring my best and brightest into the dilemmas I’m responsible for managing?

Let’s build leaders by leading!!

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